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When we go on train journeys, or anywhere with backpacks rather than a car, I pack a large selection of very small things to keep the children entertained. Almost all of these toys are useful for the journey, all of them can be played with at our destination. Like everything we take backpacking, each of these toys usually has more than one use, or can be played with in an imaginative way to extend the value we get from them. It may look like a huge amount of stuff, but believe it or not, it all fits in a zip up spongebag type thing, the size of a hardback book.
Clockwise from top left the items are:
- Seven mini versions of our favourite books. A few publishers are doing this now, Red Fox has the biggest selection.
- Selection of small animals, mostly Sylvanian families characters,
- Mini magnifying glass (in green plastic case),
- Plastic dinosaur, can be used for chasing Sylvanians,
- Dice for number games,
- Two pop up frisbees which fit in a small pouch. They don’t fly brilliantly, but much entertainment can be had from simply popping them out.
- Sheets of stickers,
- Selection of small vehicles,
- Pocket watercolour set with paintbrush and small watercolour sketchbook. The paint also gets used on stones, shells etc.
- Inflatable beach ball,
- Writing pencils,
- Mini self-inking stamp set,
- Plasticine (oil based modelling clay). Can be used for many things including building furniture for Sylvanians or tunnels for vehicles.
- Glue, sellotape and rubber,
- Small coloured pencils and felt tips,
- Usborne’s 100 things for little children to do on a journey with white board pens. These are dry wipe cards with the types of activities you get in children’s magazines such as spot the difference and matching games.
- Handful of magnetic rocks,
- Bouncy ball.
I also take a school-type exercise book for each child which they use for arty stuff and sticking in things they find. If we’ve got space, I’ll also take a game like Uno, or Chinese Chequers, but I find the art materials and little toys keep them occupied for a lot longer. I don’t bring anything with small parts, like Lego or Playmobil, as I can’t bear the anguish when the knight’s sword falls down the side of the chair, never to be seen again.
With this basic kit, they can put on shows, build rockets out of old packaging, do science experiements, write and illustrate stories, or poke each other with pencils. Just like at home really.